India has quiet 10th anniversary of n-tests(Intro Roundup)

May 12th, 2008 - 12:49 am ICT by admin  

New Delhi, May 11 (IANS) The 10th anniversary of India’s nuclear tests that stunned the world and led to an outburst of nationwide celebrations, passed quietly with few low-key official functions On this day 10 years ago, the country had erupted in joy, bursting firecrackers and distributing sweets after India exploded a nuclear device at Pokhran in Rajasthan. A decade later, the mood has changed.

Without any reference to the tests, a government press statement noted: “11th May 1998, being the defining moment in the growth of technology prowess, was christened as National Technology Day by the then prime minister of India (Atal Bihari Vajpayee)”.

In Delhi, there was a low-profile function organised by the science and technology ministry, with minister Kapil Sibal presiding over the ceremony and former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam as chief guest.

Earlier in the day, the former president was in Mumbai to take part in another function to mark National Technology Day at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), where he reiterated his support for the India-US nuclear deal.

“We need the uranium supply and definitely the pact is important if we want to meet the target of the contribution of nuclear energy in the total energy production,” he told reporters.

Kalam had first publicly stated his support for the deal in an exclusive interview with IANS Friday.

Leader of Opposition L.K. Advani of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Saturday roundly criticised the government for not organising celebrations to mark the occasion. The ruling coalition had “dishonoured” late prime minister Indira Gandhi, under whose leadership the country conducted the first nuclear test in Pokhran in 1974, Advani said.

But then, neither Advani nor Vajpayee, who announced the nuclear tests to a stunned world, had any special observances to mark the historic day.

“Today being Sunday, it is a day of rest for him,” Vajpayee’s personal aide told IANS. “There is no special programme on the Pokhran anniversary,” he added.

Vajpayee, 84, has withdrawn from day-to-day politics of his BJP, and many saw the recent endorsement of the Indo-US nuclear deal by Brajesh Mishra, former national security adviser and his closest aide when he was prime minister, as carrying his imprimatur.

The BJP too did not have any celebrations. “There are no programmes as such,” party MP and spokesman Prakash Javadekar said.

Meanwhile, in the small town of Pokhran in west Rajasthan, there were also no official or private ceremonies to mark the event.

“We would only have marked the event if there were any instructions from the Centre (government). But, till Friday, there were no such directions,” said a senior official of Jaisalmer district, under which Pokharan is a sub-division.

India has conducted two rounds of nuclear tests, first in 1974 and again in 1998, inside the highly guarded Pokharan military range, which is over 500 km from the state capital, Jaipur.

A museum set up on the outskirts of Pokhran to mark the nuclear tests was also quiet, with the employees enjoying the Sunday with their families.

Residents of Pokhran well remember that the nuclear tests had come as a surprise to them, though they had felt the tremors on the afternoon of May 11.

“But, we are used to vibrations from exploding ammunitions at the military range, so we did not give much attention to it. It was only after the announcement on television that we learnt about it, and we were so happy,” said Daulat Singh, manager of the Fort Pokaran hotel.

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